A quick timeline, for those who have been in the woods for the past month/haven’t paid attention/have better things to do with their lives: Lena Dunham is 25. Last year, she made a movie, Tiny Furniture (which screened at last year’s Maryland Film Festival!) and got a lot of attention. Now she’s got a Judd Apatow-produced show on HBO, plenty more praise, and a backlash of absurd proportions. It seems as though everyone on the internet has weighed in on Girls over the past few weeks, but two pieces by Goucher professors are particularly worthy of your attention:
Writing on The Root, Nsenga Burton, an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher, notes that “when folks have the opportunity to create any world they want, they replicate what they know and see (which is what you’re often taught in screenwriting), as opposed to creating a world that they would like to see”; for Dunham, Burton argues, that world may well be vastly white. And it’s not helped by the fact that, as Burton points out, ratings — not critical opinion, not number of blog articles written — are what drive television: “Shows with young white women — whether those characters are normal-sized, bohemian, hipster, simple, brilliant, sweet, evil, chasten, loose, rich, poor or on the come-up — get ratings and strong, consistent followings. Girls fits into that model of success, even if some critics profess that these are “girls” we’ve never seen on television before.”
For his part, David Zurawik — Baltimore Sun‘s TV critic and associate professor of communications at Goucher — agrees with Burton, and dismisses much of the negative feedback as “uninformed snark.” If Dunham lives in a white world, Zurawik argues, well then it’s just realism if her cast is predominantly white. Casting token black characters “would be p.c. hypocrisy.”
Have you seen the show? What’s your take on Dunham’s creation, and the internet furor it’s stirred up?
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